The Astoria City Council unanimously voted to protect views of the Columbia River from the dead-end Bay and Basin streets in Uniontown.
The Bridge Vista portion of the Riverfront Vision Plan, meant to maintain views of the Astoria Bridge and the river, mandates 70-foot view corridors on north-south rights of way between W. Marine Drive and the Columbia. But there were no rules in place to ensure views beyond the dead-end Bay and Basin streets, each of which end in undeveloped lots owned by the Port of Astoria.
At the end of Bay Street, near the Maritime Memorial Park, is a long, narrow grassy plot of land that the Port leases to Mark Hollander, a developer hoping to build Marriott franchise hotels in Astoria.
Diana Kirk, owner of Workers Tavern, and Nancy Montgomery, owner of Columbia River Coffee Roasters, worried that Hollander’s development could block their view down Bay Street to the river.
Dirk Rohne, the president of the Port Commission, and other Port commissioners argued that the view corridors would present another restriction on the agency.
But Rosemary Johnson, a city planning consultant, and city councilors argued that the impact would only shift — not limit — development.
“View corridors may include parking and landscaping,” Johnson said. “Therefore, all this view corridor would do is place the building to the west and allow that eastern 70-foot (portion) to be used for parking and landscaping. It does not prohibit use of these parcels.”
Development in the Bridge Vista zone would already be limited to half of lot coverage and north-south-oriented buildings with a minimum of 60 feet in between, Johnson said, meaning the extended view corridors would not reduce the square footage a developer could build.
Bridge Vista also includes the possibility of plan districts for Port-owned land and the Astoria Warehousing property, recently purchased by Fort George Brewery. The plan districts, a recognition of the unique value of the land to create higher-quality jobs, would allow the Port and Fort George to developmaster plans within the next five years and ask the City Council for exceptions to Bridge Vista rules.
City councilors ultimately sided with Uniontown businesses in fear of losing river views and stressed the need for balance between businesses and the Port. The City Council has done that in part by including the possibility of plan districts, said City Councilor Jessamyn West and Mayor Bruce Jones.
The City Council closed the public hearing on the dead-end street view amendments to Bridge Vista, setting up a second reading and likely adoption at the Oct. 21 meeting. The council also unanimously approved a master plan for the Uniontown neighborhood.
In other business Monday night, the City Council:
• Approved the purchase of a new public works truck and crane body for nearly $90,000; a fire department truck for more than $55,000; and two new hybrid police cruisers for more than $60,000 each.
• Signed off on a new operating agreement for the Port’s fast-response and firefighting boat Trident that will have the agency providing maintenance and the fire department drivers and firefighters.
• Voted to give City Manager Brett Estes a 10% raise beyond his usual 3% cost-of-living adjustment. His salary will go from $132,205 to $145,426.
The vote came after the City Council held an executive session to privately review Estes’ performance. Jones said publicly that Estes has done a fabulous job, and the city is indebted to him for his ability to pull myriad issues together.